USA / France, 1986 (MIFF 1988, Documentary)
Director: Pierre Sauvage
It's been said that there were three ' sparks ' of goodness among the evil of the Holocaust that of an individual, of a community and of a country. The individual was Raoul Wallenberg, the country was Denmark and the community was Le Chambon, France.
While many know the stories of Wallenberg and the Danes few are familiar with Le Chambon. In many ways it's the most remarkable story of all. Pierre Sauvage returned to tell it in this equally as remarkable film.
A personal testimony and an historical narrative, a simple story of one town's resistance to evil during the Holocaust The place - a small village in the Massif Central, not far from the Swiss border in France, a Huguenot Protestant enclave of 5000 peasants The time - 1940 and the Gestapo arrive demanding co-operation in deportation of Jews Pastor Andre Trocmc refuses and so do the villagers, telling the Gestapo, 'There are no Jews in Lc Cham¬bon' Pastor Trocmc proclaimed the need to resist violence to the villagers the day after France fell to the Nazis in June 1940 'through the weapons of the spirit'
Filmmaker Pierre Sauvage was a beneficiary of Le Chambon's resolve. His parents left Paris m 1943 and went to Le Chambon where they were sheltered by the Hermer family Pierre was born in 1944. Despite threats from the Vichy police and the Gestapo, not a single Chambonnais turned in a Jewish refugee - of which there were 5000 from all over Europe. For four years, the villagers defied the authorities, and the film is a true story told by the people who lived it. At the time of WW2, most of the Le Chambon villagers were devout Christian descendants of Huguenots French Protestants who had themselves known persecution and slaughter at the hands of the Kings of France and their own countrymen. Towards the end of the war, German soldiers were stationed in the middle of the village They shrugged off comments about Jews in the village by saying they were tourists. But why did Le Chambon behave the way it did when so many others were silent and indifferent?
“In essence for them, there was a remarkable assurance, it was right, they did it People who agonize, don't act. People who act, don't agonize”.
“Le Chambon is an indictment of every other community that could have done what Le Chambon did... “ - Pierre Sauvage.